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O'Donnell chieftain with many wives and dozens of children

In late medieval times marriage practices in Gaelic Ireland were often a great deal more lax and easy going than in subsequent centuries. A very good example is Turlough of the Wine (an Fhiona) O'Donnell, who was lord of Tír Chonaill from 1380-1422. The O'Donnell genealogies (see illustration) which date from the sixteenth century with some late additions from the 1660s indicate that Turlough of the Wine had eighteen sons by at least ten women. The names of Turlough's wives which are recorded indicate that he married into the ruling O'Neill family of Tyrone and also took wives from amongst the families of his sub-chieftains in Tír Chonaill, families such as O'Doherty of Inishowen (two wives), O'Boyle of Boylagh, McSweeney Doe and O'Cullinane (all one wife from each family).

As a result many O'Donnells alive today living in County Donegal and indeed all over the world are descended from Turlough of the Wine O'Donnell. However, due to the many wars in medieval and early modern Ireland and the dispossession of the O'Donnell families by the English, most memories and records of genealogical links with this famous chieftain have been lost. However, the story of Turlough of the Wine O'Donnell and his imense family is a very interesting genealogical one.

Published in Genealogy

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